rayrice.jpgIf you have no idea what this is about, then start here.

There were a couple of comments and emails that made mention of Rutgers’ bowl win over Kansas State. The argument was that Rutgers’ win was indeed impressive because Kansas State had just beaten Texas a few weeks before. Ergo, our conference is good.

Again, this didn’t even address this year’s schedules, but was more about defending the Big East’s legitimacy in general. So, I’ll take the bait…

Yes, Kansas State beat Texas in one of the bigger upsets of the season. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, given what happened earlier that Saturday, the Horns were in line to make a run at the BCS title game had they won out. That made it a little more impressive given what the Horns had to play for.

What nobody mentioned was that Texas lost its starting QB after the first series of that game. And that injury to Colt McCoy precipitated a late season collapse where they lost not only that game, but their final home game against Texas A&M. In fact even with McCoy back, they were fortunate to beat a disappointing Iowa team in what was essentially a home game (the Alamo Bowl). Texas didn’t even play for its conference championship, incidentally.

But let’s disregard all of that. K-State beat Texas. Period. And Rutgers beat K-State a month later. Basically the Big East’s defenders vis a vis Rutgers are saying one of two things.

First, that the transitive property of inequality holds for college football: Rutgers beat Kansas State. Kansas State beat Texas. Therefor Rutgers can beat Texas.

This is absurd. Look no further than last season where Notre Dame beat UCLA. UCLA beat USC. However the Irish were not better than USC. We know this because they actually played and ND got destroyed by the Trojans.

But I don’t think anyone actually believes that the transitive property of inequality holds for football, or for sports at all.

Instead (and this is the second thing) the premise they are going for is something like: You can judge how good you are not only by the opponents you beat, but who those opponents beat.

In fact, this is generally the way that most strength of schedule models are bootstrapped. You look not just at opponents, but opponents’ opponents.

So let’s do that for the Big East.

I’m not going through the entire conference (I can’t beleive how much time I’ve already spent on this), but I will do it for two teams. Rutgers and South Florida.

I picked Rutgers because that’s the team that other people singled out by virtue of a win over a Kansas State team that beat Texas (and incidentally, how come no one argued for the strength of the conference based upon Cincinnati winning a bowl game over a Western Michigan team that beat Temple?). And I also picked South Florida because they were a bit of a surprise last year and are looked at as a team on the rise and a trendy pick in many of the early football publications to crack the Top 25.

Last season South Florida went 8-4.

Just a note, these numbers do not include bowl games. There are two reasons for this. One, as I stated (and tried to show with some numbers) in another post, bowl success doesn’t really correlate with anything (or more accurately, over time one BCS conference is going to be no more or less successful than any other). Two, all of my other stats for all the teams in the Bottom 10 list are based on regular season games and schedules.

Okay, so South Florida. 8-4.

Below is a list of the teams they beat, the records of those opponents (and a list of the teams those opponents beat). I am listing the I-AA schools but not throwing their numbers in as they essentially play in what amounts to a different data pool.

McNeese State I-AA opponent
FIU 0-12 (wins over nobody)
UCF 4-8 (wins over Villanova, UAB, Memphis, Marshall)
Connecticut 4-8 (wins over Rhode Island, Indiana, Army, Pitt)
North Carolina 3-9 (wins over Furman, NC State, Duke)
Pitt 6-6 (wins over Virginia, Cincinnati, Citadel, Toledo, Syracuse, UCF)
Syracuse 4-8 (wins over Illinois, Miami OH, Wyoming, Conn)
West Virginia 10-2 (Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, East Carolina, Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt).

Of the I-A teams that South Florida beat 1 had a winning record.


That was their upset win over conference foe West Virginia.

The total winning percentage of the teams they beat .370 (31-53)

Next, I singled out the BCS schools that those opponents beat. The assumption being those are the power conferences so those would be the toughest teams and the higher quality opponents. This is the same reasoning behind pointing out K-State’s win over Texas instead of Western Michigan’s win over whomever it was.

Cumulatively the teams South Florida beat had wins over 7 non-conference BCS opponents: Indiana (5-7), Illinois (2-10), Maryland (8-4), Mississippi State (3-9), Virginia (5-7), NC State (3-9), Duke (0-12).

Those teams had a winning percentage of .309 (26-58).

So what does that mean? South Florida beat a bunch of bad teams. Their opponents simply were not very good (.370). And their opponents’ opponents were even less not very good. Or more not very good. Whichever makes sense.

Let’s do the same for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights went 10-2, beating:

North Carolina 3-9 (wins over Furman, NC State, Duke)
Illinois 2-10 (wins over Michigan State, Eastern Illinois,
Ohio 9-3 (wins over Tennessee Martin, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Illinois, Buffalo, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Akron)
Howard I-AA
South Florida 8-4 (wins over McNeese State, FIU, UCF, Conn, UNC, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia)
Navy 9-3 wins over East Carolina, UMass, Stanford, Conn, Air Force, Duke, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Army)
Pitt 6-6 (wins Virginia, Cincinnati, Citadel, Toledo, Syracuse, UCF)
Syracuse 4-8 (wins over Illinois, Miami OH, Wyoming, Conn)
Conn 4-8 (wins over Rhode Island, Army, Pitt, Indiana)
Louisville 11-1 (wins over Kentucky, Temple, Miami (Fla), Kansas State, Middle Tenn., Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia, South Florida, Pitt, Connecticut)

Rutgers beat 4 teams with winning records (Ohio, Navy, Louisville, and South Florida).

The winning percentage of the teams SUNJ beat: 52-52, an even .500.

The BCS teams their opponents beat: NC State (3-9), Duke (0-12), MSU (4-8), Illinois (2-10), UNC (3-9), Stanford (1-11), Virginia (5-7), Indiana (5-7), Kentucky (7-5), Miami (6-6), Kansas State (7-5),

That’s a winning percentage of .325 (43-89)

Just for fun, I pulled out Louisville’s numbers. This is just to show how much of a boost Rutgers gets from that one upset. Without L’ville, opponents drop to .446 and the opponents’ BCS opponents winning percentage plummets to .240 (23-73). And that is truly awful.

So while Rutgers at least beat teams with a .500 records, those teams cummulatively—based upon the quality of the teams they beat—were not much better than the crummy teams South Florida beat.

For comparison I pulled the 3rd and 4th place teams from the other major conferences. I literally flipped a coin to determine which of the two—3rd or 4th place—I would do the same analysis for from four of the other BCS conferences. For the fifth, the Big 10, it was a little weirder. Two sources I looked at had Michigan as the third place team, and one that had them second. I’m inclined to believe the latter, minority opinion as they beat Wisconsin head to head. But seeing how they don’t even play every other team in that cockamamie league, I’m not sure what cockamamie tie breakers they might use. So I wrote three names on the edges a piece of paper (Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State), called my dog over, and used the one he stepped on or nearest. Please, I was trying to keep myself amused.

Anyway the other teams I randomly drew were: UCLA, Michigan, Boston College, Texas A&M, and Aubrun.

I did the first two and stopped because 1) I blog for fun but this particular exercise gets pretty tedious not to mention time consuming. 2) I was fairly convinced of my point after the first two.

UCLA at 7-5 beat teams with a winning percentage of .560 (47-37). Their opponents’ BCS opponent wins came in at a fairly lofty .646 clip (31-17)

Michigan at 11-1 beat teams with a winning percentage of .553 (73-59). Their opponents’ BCS opponent wins was a more modest .427 (62-83)

So, what does that mean. Well, with regard to South Florida, it’s not even close. Compared to analogs in the other conferences, the Bulls’ schedule was laughable. As if we needed to go through this to confirm that. But we did.

Looking at opponents’ opponents, Rutgers doesn’t fare a whole lot better. Looking at the winning percentage of who they beat, however, they are actually in the ball park (.500 vs .560 and .500 vs .553). But, remember, it’s that secondary list that tells you how good the teams you beat were. So, Rutgers’ opponents got their .500 mark against teams that were statistically as bad as the ones South Florida beat, and lagging behind (Michigan) and well behind (UCLA) the comparison schools.

It’s a long walk for a small drink of water, because if you just looked at it, you probably wouldn’t need to do all the math. Rutgers got the bulk of its opponent win totals (almost 60%) from Ohio, Navy, and Louisville. There is only one legit Top 25 team among them. But that’s still a lot of wins. So who’d Navy and Ohio beat?

Akron? UMass? Ohio did beat Illinois, but that was a 2-10 Illinois team.

I realize this is all about last year (2006). And the original post was about the weak schedules Big East teams have this year. But the arguments coming in to show the conference wasn’t as weak as the other BCS conferences were of the “we beat a team that had beat a good team the month before” variety from games played last year. I was simply using people’s basic argument against them to show, eh, start to finish you’re conference isn’t really beating a lot of impressive teams.

Feel free to do work for the other three teams I pulled (Boston College, Texas A&M, and Aubrun)

Just eyeballing it, there’s probably some good news for the Big East. Texas A&M is probably going to be on par with Rutgers and South Florida. They had one of the easier schedules in D-I last year, especially non-conference, so much so that they might not even have any opponents with wins over non-conference BCS opponents. Not even bad ones. So you probably compare favorably to .000. Congrats.

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